░   The Forest Institute   ░   has closed on 14 Feb 2022 and we thank all of you for your generous support!

The
Forest
Institute
The
Forest
Institute
░ co-initiated by Robert Zhao, Randy Chan & John Tung
14.1–14.2.2022
7 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks

░ The Forest Institute ░ is a large-scale architectural art installation housing a research installation, and comprising the Forest Observation Room and the River Platform, devoted to research on the secondary forest surrounding the Gillman Barracks precinct. Conceptualised by Robert Zhao & Randy Chan, and curated by John Tung, the Institute—that intervenes into existing pedestrian infrastructure—is accompanied by several large-scale prints of fauna installed in its vicinity, exposing visitors to the different realities of the area.

The project draws inspiration from, and pays close attention to an ancient tributary of Berlayer Creek, that courses through the forested areas of the barracks within an earshot distance from the institute. Prompting an acute awareness of the interconnectedness and interdependence of the perceived ‘ecological pockets’ that we encounter within our built environments, ░ The Forest Institute ░ offers a glimpse at the beauty and mysteries that nature has to offer, while pre-empting us on what we stand to lose.

> read more

Extending from research undertaken by Robert Zhao Renhui for his Benesse Prize finalist artwork, Queen’s Own Hill and its Environs, commissioned and presented at the Singapore Biennale 2019, and conceptualised in collaboration with award-winning architect-artist Randy Chan, ░ The Forest Institute ░ exists as a large-scale architectural art installation housing a research installation, and comprising the Forest Observation Room and the River Platform, devoted to research on the secondary forest surrounding the Gillman Barracks precinct. The Institute, accompanied by several large-scale prints of fauna—encountered and observed within the forested area—installed in its vicinity, exposes visitors to the different realities of the area.

Drawing inspiration from Southeast Asian architecture, the design of the institute is reminiscent of the Bornean longhouse—one of the earliest forms of permanent structures for many cultures around the world—albeit with the incorporation of a contemporary steel wing. Intervening into the existing pedestrian infrastructure present within the arts site, Chan’s architectural design highlights the backdrop of nature against the urban reality. Drawing attention to the forest that surrounds the concretised barracks, the elevated institute offers a unique vantage point to peer into the green yonder.

While housing research findings from Zhao’s extensive engagement with the history, botany, and zoology of the forest surrounding the Gillman Barracks art precinct over the past four years, the institute also provides visiting researchers with the opportunity for an extended study of the forest through overnight residencies at the Forest Observation Room. Equipped with provisions capable of supporting up to 2 adult and 2 child researchers from dusk to dawn, the observation room provides a safe refuge for the scrutiny of the forest’s nocturnal inhabitants.

Finally, the River Platform will lead visitors beyond demarcated boundaries to one of the key sites of interest, for both Chan & Zhao, within the forest—an ancient tributary draining into Berlayer Creek, concretised by the British, and still flowing today. Just as how this “river” serves as a source of sustenance for the fauna that inhabit the area, its flowing waters are simultaneously the wellspring of the artists’ inspiration.

Berlayer Creek, one of two remaining mangrove swamps located in the south of Mainland Singapore, possesses the longest history of urbanisation amongst all mangrove swamps in Singapore, having been occupied since the 1820s. Now a refuge for numerous species of migratory birds and other animals, the recognition of this humble stream running through the forests of Gillman Barracks as one of its tributaries—predating settlement, colonisation, and urbanisation—prompts an acute awareness of the interconnectedness and interdependence of the perceived ‘ecological pockets’ that we encounter within our built environments.

As an ongoing study of the enmeshment and impact of human activities on surrounding ecologies, The Forest Institute emerges as an allegory of humanity’s limited understanding of our natural surroundings. Beyond offering a glimpse at the beauty and mysteries that nature has to offer, the artwork preempts us on what we stand to lose.

John Tung, Project Curator




About


░   The Forest Institute   ░

7 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks
Opening hours: 14.1–14.2.2021
10am–6pm daily
(closed on 31st Jan, 1st Feb & 2nd Feb)

This is a ticketed show ($5), please purchase tickets onsite.

Do reach out to us on instagram @theforestinstitute.sg or theforestinstitute.sg@gmail.com if you have any questions!




Public Programmes



░   Artist, Architect & Curator’s Talk
5.2.2022

5th Feb: Saturday, 4pm–5:30pm
Live-streamed on Facebook, free, conducted in English

register at:
theforestinstitutetalk.eventbrite.sg

> read more

During the Artist, Architect & Curator’s Talk, hear directly from the project’s initiators—Robert Zhao, Randy Chan, & John Tung—on the inspirations that led to the conceptualisation, as well as the key ideas that ░ The Forest Institute ░ contends with. Spanning the breadth of topics ranging from history to ecological conservation, the conversation will be inflected with the artistic, architectural, and curatorial backgrounds possessed by the three individuals. The talk is poised to give audiences new inroads into thinking about the green spaces amidst our urbanised environments.





░   Forest Observation Room
15.1–13.2.2022

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,
14 sessions in total,
5:30pm–10am (overnight)
Location: The Forest Institute, ticketed, self-guided experience

Ticketed ($250/ night), pre-registration required
2 adults / session (up to 2 additional children under the age of 12 at an additional cost of $50)

register at:
forestobservationroom.eventbrite.sg

> read more

The Forest Observation Room offers visiting researchers to ░ The Forest Institute ░ a unique opportunity for an extended engagement with Gillman Barracks’ secondary forests after nightfall, albeit from the safety of the institute’s elevated premises. Operating from dusk to dawn on weekends and equipped with the necessary creature comforts for overnight observation, visiting researchers will have the special privilege of studying the forest inhabitant’s nocturnal activities through footage captured from within the forest. Screens within the observation room connect audiences with the surrounding woodlands.

Note: Tickets include camp food and refreshments.

Documentation of Forest Observation Room
(Contributed by Participants)
Documentation of Forest Observation Room
(Contributed by Participants)
Documentation of Forest Observation Room
(Contributed by Participants)
Documentation of Forest Observation Room
(Contributed by Participants)
Documentation of Forest Observation Room
(Contributed by Participants)
Documentation of Forest Observation Room
(Contributed by Participants)




Nature Walks

Nature Walks continues the tradition of guided treks into the secondary forest surrounding the Gillman Barracks first introduced as a key component of Queens Own Hill and its Environs (2019). Touching on wide ranging topics such as history, botany, zoology, and ecology, these knowledge-packed journeys are certain to satisfy art and nature lovers alike.

Documentation of Nature Walk
(Courtesy of Lewis Choo)
Documentation of Nature Walk
(Courtesy of Lewis Choo)
Documentation of Nature Walk
(Courtesy of Lewis Choo)
Documentation of Nature Walk
(Courtesy of Hong Shu-ying)
Documentation of Nature Walk
(Courtesy of Hong Shu-ying)




░   Nature Walk: The River’s Source
with Robert Zhao Renhui
15.1.2022 / 29.1.2022 / 12.2.2022

15th Jan: Saturday, 8:30am–10:30am /
29th Jan: Saturday, 4:30pm–6:30pm /
12th Feb: Saturday, 2:30pm–4pm, 4:30pm–6pm
Meeting point: entrance of The Forest Institute, conducted in English

Ticketed ($25), pre-registration required, 10 pax / session

register at:
theriverssource.eventbrite.sg

> read more

Nature Walk: The River’s Source pays particular attention to an ancient river running through the secondary forests of Gillman Barracks that drains into Berlayer Creek. Though concretised by the British during the colonial days of Singapore, nature has gradually reclaimed stretches of this tributary, reverting it to a seemingly “natural” state. On this trek led by ░ The Forest Institute’s ░ co-initiator Robert Zhao, gain deeper insight into how this river inspired the project’s development while hearing from the artist first-hand on the central role this waterway plays in supporting its surrounding ecosystem and its extensive history.

Note: Please come in comfortable clothes, walking shoes and insect repellent. Children below the age of 12 should always be accompanied by parents or guardians.





░   Nature Walk: Regeneration and Migration
with Dr Yong Ding Li
23.1.2022 / 6.2.2022

23rd Jan: Sunday, 7:30am–9:30am /
6th Feb: Sunday, 7:30am–9:30am
Meeting point: entrance of The Forest Institute, conducted in English

Ticketed ($25), pre-registration required, 10 pax / session

register at:
regenerationandmigration.eventbrite.sg

> read more

Join Dr Yong Ding Li—an established conservationist and ecologist—on a nature walk that will introduce common plants and animal species that reside in Singapore’s secondary woodland. Much of the forests around Gillman Barracks did not exist 50 years ago, but nature has rapidly taken over what was once a military camp. Over the course of the walk, Dr Yong will explain how tropical succession has allowed biodiversity to regain a foothold when places are left alone. In addition, his sharing on bird and mammal species sighted in this woodland, including more than 20 migratory bird species that have been documented in Robert Zhao’s ongoing work at the site, draws connections to broader narratives on the resilience of biodiversity.

Note: Please come in comfortable clothes, walking shoes and with insect repellent. Children below the age of 12 should always be accommodated by parents or guardians.

Dr Yong Ding Li is a conservationist and ecologist based at BirdLife International’s regional office in Singapore where he oversees projects on migratory bird conservation in various parts of Asia. During his free time, he volunteers with the Nature Society (Singapore) and other conservation NGOs. Ding Li is a self-taught artist and has illustrated several books and projects, besides having collaborated with several artists in Singapore on art installations, including the Lorong Chuan MRT station. Ding Li obtained his PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra where he studied bird and insect communities in woodland patches. He has authored several papers on the conservation of Asia’s birds and terrestrial biodiversity, as well as six books.





░   Nature Walk: Art Ecologies
with Robert Zhao Renhui & Dr Yong Ding Li
13.2.2022

13th Feb: Sunday, 8:30am–10:30am
Meeting point: entrance of The Forest Institute, conducted in English

Ticketed ($25), pre-registration required, 10 pax / session

register at:
artecologies.eventbrite.sg

> read more

Although ecological art is oftentimes erroneously conflated with environmental art, it differentiates itself from the latter with its particular focus on functional ecological systems-restoration. A special Nature Walk jointly conducted by The Forest Institute co-initiator Robert Zhao and established conservationist/ecologist Dr Yong Ding Li, pays particular attention to the relationship between art and science in the research-oriented approach of the development of ecological artworks. By leading participants on a walk that draws close attention to the web of interrelationships within the ecology, the walk’s conductors offer possible approaches towards activating our connections to the environment through different lenses.

Note: Please come in comfortable clothes, walking shoes and with insect repellent. Children below the age of 12 should always be accommodated by parents or guardians.





░   Nature Snap at Gillman Forest
with Nicky Bay
29.1.2022 / 12.2.2022

29th Jan: Saturday, 8:30pm–12:30am /
12th Feb: Saturday, 8:30pm–12:30am
Location: The Forest Institute & Gillman Barracks Forest

Ticketed ($45), pre-registration required, 10 pax / session

register at:
naturesnap.eventbrite.sg

> read more

Nature Snap is a practical workshop on nature photography that brings you closer to the beautiful biodiversity within Gillman’s Forest. Singapore's veteran photographer Nicky Bay will demonstrate the processes, ethics, and technical know-how to kickstart your macro photography journey. Enjoy nature in a new light as Nicky opens the window to a world of insects, spiders and other microfauna that live among us.

For the late-night edition of this workshop, experience a different form of nightlife as Nicky Bay brings you around the forest to capture the various nocturnal arachnids and insects. Spot them in action as they wander out in the dark to hunt or scavenge while being safe from their diurnal predators like birds.

*There will be an assistant photographer to keep to 5pax per group due to Safety Management Measures.

About Nicky Bay
Nicky is a world-renowned macro-photographer based in Singapore. His works have been featured on National Geographic, BBC, WIRED, and numerous other publications worldwide, topped with solo exhibitions in Europe including Senckenberg Museum in Germany and Galerie du Lion in France.

Nicky runs macro photography workshops in exotic locations like Borneo, Africa and Central America, attracting participants from all over the world, many of whom are advanced photographers themselves. A judge in the inaugural Singapore Nature Photographer of the Year competition and Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year, Nicky has put together one of the largest arthropod photo databases in the world with about 30,000 high-quality macro photos, many of which are featured in his book “Borneo Spiders”.

An engineer by training, Nicky is also the CTO of the QCD Group and publishes his photographs with natural history articles at www.nickybay.com.


Documentation of Nature Snaps
(Courtesy of DECK)
Documentation of Nature Snaps
(Courtesy of DECK)
Documentation of Nature Snaps
(Courtesy of DECK)
Documentation of Nature Snaps
(Courtesy of DECK)



Gallery

Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
Reticulated Python, Circa 1930 (Courtesy of The Forest Institute)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
Long Tailed Macaques at Gillman, 1960 (Courtesy of The Forest Institute)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
Black-crowned Night Heron, 2018 (Courtesy of The Forest Institute)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
Buffy Fish Owl (Courtesy of The Forest Institute)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
A look into the Jungle, Gillman, Circa 1910 (Courtesy of The Forest Institute)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)
Installation Shot of The Forest Institute (Courtesy of Institute of Critical Zoologist)




People


Team

Artists: Robert Zhao Renhui & Randy Chan
Curator: John Z.W. Tung

Project Manager: Hong Shu-ying
Assistant Architect-Artist: Isabella Duffield
Designer: gideon-jamie
Digital Communications: Samantha Yap





Biographies

░   Robert Zhao (artist)

Robert Zhao Renhui is a multi-disciplinary artist and the founder of the Institute of Critical Zoologists. His artistic practice addresses humanity’s relationship with nature, and is characterised by a longstanding interest in investigating sites defined by the conflation of wilderness and urbanisation. @robert_zhao / criticalzoologists.org





░   Randy Chan (artist-architect)

Randy Chan works at the intersection of art and architecture. His creative oeuvre spans architecture, landscape urbanism, art installations, curation, galleries and exhibitions. As the Principal of Zarch Collaboratives, the firm’s projects mirror Randy’s fascination with sustainability, landscape urbanism, placemaking, community, heritage and narrative. @randychankeng / zarch.com.sg





░   John Tung (curator)

John Tung is an independent curator and exhibition-maker. To date, he has overseen more than 30 artwork commissions and site-specific artwork adaptations ranging in scale from the minute to monumental. Three of the artwork commissions he curated have been finalists for the prestigious Benesse Prize, of which one was a winner. @johnsavage.fromthewoods / johntung.com





Partners


Art Around The City is an initiative under a partnership between the National Arts Council and Singapore Tourism Board, which features a series of visual art installations and programmes across key tourism and art precincts. The public art activations aim to add vibrancy to each iconic precinct, engage with the public and spotlight Singapore-based artists and curators.

░   The Forest Institute   ░ was live at Gillman Barracks from 14 Jan 2022 – 14 Feb 2022 in conjunction with Singapore Art Week 2022. The project was well-received and we thank the public and friends for the generous support!